What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that while Heavenly Sword is only rated "Teen" (instead of "Mature"), the cut scenes depict some genuinely unsettling situations, like when a screaming Kai is pursued by a villain intent on stabbing her to death. The game contains examples of parental cruelty and whole-scale violence on the part of heroes and villains alike. While the story is interesting, it's designed for an older audience.
What's it about?
HEAVENLY SWORD centers on Nariko, a young woman whose clan has guarded the Heavenly Sword for generations. When the twisted and power-hungry king Bohan threatens her countrymen with annihilation, Nariko takes the sword into battle -- which grants her great power but also comes with great cost. Like any hack n' slash game, Nariko must dispatch wave after wave of baddies using various attacks and combo moves. Players also control a secondary character, Kai, who specializes in projectile weapons; through a system called Aftertouch, players can actually guide the projectile after it's been launched by either tilting the SIXAXIS controller or using the directional pad (we recommend the latter).
Is it any good?
Heavenly Sword boasts near-flawless character models, sweeping scenery, and a story that's every bit as emotionally charged as a film. Characters look alive and don't move with the usual stiltedness. Battle scenes are truly epic, with hundreds of soldiers on-screen at once.
Heavenly Sword clocks in at only about six hours -- slightly more if you unlock all the bonus content, which includes the making of vignettes and artwork. You can't skip cut scenes, even when you're watching them for a second time, and there are a few uneven difficulty spikes, most notably the frustrating final boss. But Heavenly Sword is so exquisitely rendered that it's pretty easy to forgive these minor faults. Gamers who can handle the game's mature themes and realistic violence will enjoy the cinematic experience.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the principles of motion-capture technology and how it helps bring characters like Bohan and Nariko to life. (Players can unlock the game's extra features to see how motion capture was used along with other interesting making-of features and interviews.) What makes this game work? The graphics? The strong storytelling? The battles? Or is it the right mix of the three?